Anglicanism and Popery

Fr. Zuhlsdorf discusses (to be euphemistic) a comment by one Fr. Addison Hart, who left the Anglican Communion 13 years ago for the Catholic Church and is now regretting the decision. I agree with Fr. Z. that the reasons Fr. Hart gives for his disaffection are pretty silly. But as somebody making the same journey as Fr. Hart’s original one, I have to comment further.

If the Church of England and ECUSA are in fact part of the Church which Jesus founded on the rock of St. Peter, then they must by definition be infallible in matters of faith and doctrine, as to be otherwise would constitute the Gates of Hell prevailing against that church. In other words, the existence of the Magisterium is a corollary of Matt. 16:18. Now, it is clear to everyone that at the very least,C of E /ECUSA believe different things from the Catholic Church, particularly in matters of human sexuality. They cannot both be right. Further, the Anglican tradition does not speak with one voice in matters of faith and doctrine, so we can scarcely speak of infallibility when contradictory doctrines are acceptable within the tradition.

Under such circumstances, one might doubt the continuity of Apostolic succession, and indeed, the Roman church rejects the Anglican succession. I was rather shocked when a RC online told me that I was not receiving the True Presence, given that that’s almost all that Fr. Crume talks about. When I read the argument, I realized that it was precisely parallel to a dispute within my old branch of Wicca. After contemplating the matter, I found that my own reaction was the same that I had then: that the errors of ordination did not invalidate the ceremony, assuming proper intent and subsequent orthopraxis, but that I would sooner be aligned with the purer stream. Nor have I experience to compare the subjective experience of the Sacrament, and probably will not for some time, as the Church of Rome does not have the same Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy about previous marriages. My own conscience is clear that I was never previously married in any sense that the Christian Church generally has understood, but I don’t wish to give offence and scandal before the Church has come to the same conclusion.

Now, one might claim that the various Anglo-Catholic schisms are the Remnant of the True Church within the Anglican tradition. I’ve not seen anything in A/C doctrine which would be a deal-breaker to union with Rome (and of course, neither has the Pope).  But the rot in Anglicanism had begun to set in as early as the ’30s, with their early adoption of contraception. The signatories of the Affirmation of St. Louis had already been raised in a compromised faith. That does not necessarily mean that they could not recover the sacred tradition. But that would ultimately mean accepting the Ordinariate. And there’s a reluctance to give up an independent identity and freedom to chart their own course.  That implies a basic Protestantism in the AC church. even if it is a Protestantism whose heresy is to choose Catholicism.

Then there’s the question of fruit. There are fine people in my AC church, and I haven’t the right to question the faith of any of them. But institutionally, collectively, there’s a slumbering contentment. They are, by the grace of God, English (even when they aren’t), and they have their fine music and liturgy (unlike – sniff!- the Papists who sold their birthright for a pot of message and a mistranslation of the liturgy), and their gin and tonics. And they’re only ever challenged to excel in terms of evangelism (tell somebody — you know, the right people — about our church). I hear that some AC churches are growing. I haven’t seen it. The proportion of elderly and/or gay members doesn’t help.

But in Rome, there is excitement: a call to Christian unity; the reform of the liturgy, including a better translation and better music; the thrill of battle, of being everyone’s favorite target, more truly hated even than Westboro Baptist. There are young people whose faith rocks. There’s a network of Catholic broadcast media. It seriously feels to me like getting in on the ground floor of the Next Big Thing.  Is the Church of Rome totally screwed up? Of course it is; it’s run by sinners. But in spite of that, it’s moving forward. I wish I could say the same of the Anglican Tradition.


5 Responses to Anglicanism and Popery

  1. […] Original post, by Maestro Quick, is here, ruminating on the theological dimensions of the choice between Thames and Tiber. […]

  2. Jeffrey Quick says:

    Big thoughtful stuff there, K.; y’all go read it. Here are my comments on it:
    1. The notion that the Magisterium only covers “mere Christianity”.

    It’s a novel argument to me, and one I’ll have to chew on. I believe in “no salvation outside the Church” (“You may not be a Witch alone”), but unlike Fr. Leonard Feeney, I don’t presume to know where God draws the lines of His Church, and for lack of better information, I tend to draw them broadly (Westboro Baptist? Probably not, but I’m willing to be surprised. Mormons, JWs and such? Wouldn’t bet my immortal soul on it, personally, but don’t have a good argument against. The Amish? Almost certainly.) And of course, within broad categories there is no personal certainty implied. The problem is in deciding what is essential for the Church. I don’t see something like ordination of women as a local custom issue. We’ve had it for quite awhile, have seen how it works, and I don’t find it pretty. No only do priestesses point to Goddesses (Paul VI, as interpreted by Naomi Goldenberg, but every church that has ordained women has become doctrinally soft. That’s a chicken/egg problem, but my perception is that women clergy respond to doctrine emotionally rather than logically, and exacerbate the problem.

    2. The Immaculate Conception.
    I don’t think that the IC means “incapable of sin”, just that Mary lacked the weight of Original Sin pulling her down and would have to actually choose and try to sin. As for Jesus, there’s a paradox: he was tempted as we are, yet without sin. Could he be tempted and holy? Clearly, Jesus could not sin and yet be what He claimed to be. “God is holy, Jesus sinned, ergo Jesus is not God.” And of course He experienced the effects of sin “up close and personal” in all He knew and loved.

    My initial problem with the IC was this: if God could create Mary free from sin, then why not the rest of us? Why was the Incarnation even necessary? I’m satisfied with the explanation that Mary was essentially “pre-saved” by Jesus, but I’ll admit it’s not easy.

    3. Authoritarianism of the Church.
    There’s a difference between authority and authoritarianism. I haven’t noticed Catholics lining up to drink the FlavrAid. Indeed, when dealing with politicians, it can be argued that the Church is not authoritative enough. My decision to return to Christianity and ultimately to Catholicism was based on the observation that “the magisterium of one” had not produced good results, that Man’s attempts at rational morality were all failing in certain respects. This means for me that the Church’s teachings on faith and morals are assumed to be true. That does not mean, however, that I’m not going to argue against them when they make no sense to me, because that’s how I persuade myself. I want to fully understand and believe, not swallow what I’m told. I’m working through Catholic social teaching, which I have a lot of problems with. On a lesser note: I accept that abortion is wrong, I have an acceptably libertarian argument allowing the government to protect the preborn…but I have no passion for it; it’s just not my issue.

    4. ” was repulsed, as only a Jew can be repulsed, by the species of idol worship known as the Exposition of the Holy Sacrament.”
    OK, I hear you. Obviously, as somebody who’d spent a quarter-century as a pagan, my milage varies. In my years as a chorister BC, I would not look at the Sacrament; instinctively I knew that was not for me. So now I have to look at it. But Adoration is not part of my practice yet.

    But then, if it “is” His Body, it’s not idol worship, any more than worshipping Jesus is worshipping a meat idol… which would also be the Jewish position, yes? The genius of the Eucharist, if considered as idolatry, is that the bread and wine bear only an abstract resemblance to Body and Blood. Most idols historically have been more closely connected to the nature of the Gods they represent. In Wicca, we essentially make idols out of meat, which is a real problem when it’s your wife. But folks like PZ Myers are right: God-as-a-cracker is ridiculous. Yet it is so.

    More later; I do have to work some.

    • kishnevi says:

      Quick response to you (pun intended only after I typed it)

      1)on women priesthood–I don’t see the problems you see with that. Or maybe I should say, I don’t see what you see as a problem as being a problem. Witnessing the same problems with Orthodox Judaism about overly authoritarian rabbis and refusal to allow women to participate (to a greater degree than Catholicism, btw), I’d say a good dose of womanhood would be needed.

      BTW, since God is beyond gender and sex, it’s just as bad for a priest to “point” to a male god as it is a priestess to “point” to a female goddess.

      2)there is a theory (probably Protestant) that the “rock” to which Jesus was referring was not Peter but the statement made by Peter immediately beforehand. I don’t have the text handy, but IIRC Peter had expressed recognition of Jesus as Messiah. So, in that view, the “rock on which the church is built” is the belief in Jesus as Messiah (or whatever Peter did say, if I’m remembering it wrong) and not Peter and whatever institution sprang from him.

      3–in the Jewish view, worship of any created being is idol worship. Therefore worship of Jesus (since his body was a created thing, even if He wasn’t) and the elements of the Eucharist are idol worship, even if Jesus is God, and even if you accept the full Catholic view on the divine. substance of Jesus and the Eucharist. I guess you can say that Jesus himself is the idol being worshipped, even if no physical equivalent is actually in the room.

      And the Exposition/Adoration service I witnessed went a good deal beyond the usual showing the elements of the Eucharist at Mass and people kneeling before a closed tabernacle with the Host inside of it. The Episcopalian churches I attended all pretty much matched standard Catholic practice on those points, and I had no problem with that. Nor with the statue of the Virgin standing next to the tabernacle on the side of the chapel in Tallahassee. But the Exposition service was something else. This was a big wafer inside a gilded glass relic case, with people kneeling and praying to it for a half hour to two hours. And by big wafer, I mean big enough to make at least a family size pizza out of.

      Sorry, I don’t pray to pizzas, baked or unbaked, leavened or unleavened. Although my idea of heaven includes finally eating a pizza after all these years of having Crohn’s.

      Thank God I didn’t stumble across the practice of stuffing the mummies of saints into glass cases for public view and veneration until years later.

      But of course I’m the kid whose mother took him into St. Patrick’s Cathedral in NYC for the sole purpose of “showing you the idols”. By which she meant the statues of the saints.

  3. Jeffrey Quick says:

    Wasn’t actually much more to address:
    ‘the entire congregation walked up to the altar, formed a circle, and passed along the elements of the Eucharist, each one taking and recieving from their neighbor, each one reciting in turn the formulas (“the bread of Heaven, the cup of Life”) for the benefit of the person next to them: each member of the Body of Christ serving as eucharistic minister for his or her neighbor.”

    This does me about like the Adoration does you, K. It’s terribly Wiccan, and takes the Priesthood of Believers way too far for me. Of course, I’m uncomfortable with Communion in the hand, standing, with regularly-used EMHCs. One problem I have with OF Catholicism is that the Gardnerian world is more orthopractic than orthodox, and since I’d taken such an imprint on the EF, the OF ways of doing things seem simply WRONG. I’ve really been living out the history of the RC Church in the 60s in my own person.

    Yes, we’re all members of the body of Christ. But the body has a head. And it has an asshole…like me. Do you really want Jesus to come from somebody’s bunghole?

  4. fondos says:


    […]Anglicanism and Popery « The Quick and the Dead[…]…

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